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July 15-18, 2010
Orlando, Florida

Harry Potter Through Girard's Glasses  
Creanga Danut Claudiu

The world of Harry Potter experienced by now enough anthropological interpretations involving mythological creatures, spells used, etc. But few studies have been stopped on interpreting patterns that had led to the creation of this world of witches and wizards. My study will be one anthropological and philosophical and will explain the world of Harry Potter in terms of René Girard's mimetic theory.

This presentation will focus on understanding the pattern by which the world of Harry Potter was founded and the structures that were built over. René Girard, by mimetic theory, offered an explanation of how the world of men began. The theory revolves around five concepts: mimetic desire, victimization, the founding murder, the scapegoat and the sacrifice. For Girard human world began with the first kill. This was caused by mimetic conflicts from within the group, conflicts that were unshackle on a victim. This is the scapegoat: the cause and the solving of the crisis. Dead in front of the group, the victim gets divine allure: she solved the conflict. She will be worshiped, and its objects and the objects directly related to the conflict will be considered totems. It is the founding murder of a new order.

This short presentation shows in grosso modo René Girard's mimetic theory. At the surface it can be observed the first similarities with the pattern by which was built the world of Harry Potter. All key concepts like mimetic desire, founding murder, and the scapegoat can be easily track in Harry Potter books, at different levels. Firstly we can analyze the founding of the school of wizards: Hogwarts (the oldest thing that we know). The conflict arose because of mimetic desire: Gryffindor and Slytherin wanted to different things from this school. Slytherin was driven away but not killed, so the conflict was not solved, only postponed. Here we encounter the first totems: Gryffindor's sword, Slytherin's locket, etc. Centuries later, the heir of Slytherin starts the conflict again: the same mimetic desire, now Dumbledore is the rival. The conflict isn't solved now because we don't have (again) a founding murder: Harry Potter and Voldemort continued to live. We encounter again totems of the conflict: Voldemort is named You-Know-Who, etc. The founding murder will take place at Hogwarts (were the conflict began). We can see that Voldemort wasn't worshiped, which is what Girard's theory says. But this is because he is not the victim: the victim is Harry Potter who died in the Forbidden Forest. Although the situation looks weird, it can easily be interpreted in the lines of Girard's theory.


Creanga Claudiu is a graduate student of philosophy and journalism. Creanga has studied philosophy for three years and journalism for three years and is now pursuing a Masters degree in philosophy of science at University of Bucharest, Romania. Creanga's involvement in Harry Potter culture lies in avidly reading the books, watching the movies, and discussing them.
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